Welcome to another killer interview with your She-Wolf Horror host, Slaughter cin. I’m HEXcited to introduce my next gruesome guest with you creepsters today...You may have seen him in some of your favorite films and never even noticed, due to the ambiguity of the Masked character roles he stars in. He’s a Terroriffic actor! So let’s get right into it before the full moon approaches and he becomes my next meal.
1. Please introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from?
Hey oh! I'm Damian Maffei. Born in Queens NY (Maspeth to be exact), moved to Levittown, NY (on Long Island) where I grew up. Knocked around various areas of NY until a few years ago my wife and I picked up the family and moved to... MAINE! ::cue ominous music::
2. How long have you been acting? How did you start?
I first took an "acting class" in High School and a requirement of the class was that you audition for the school musical. So I did. Got a small role in Annie, but I turned it down, stuck with sports. Following year, same thing. Class, audition. That time it was Little Shop of Horrors. I was offered the role of Audrey II (the voice of the plant) and took it. It still really wasn't... "acting". I just did an impression of Levi Stubbs from the movie, but... It was a really good impression! Everyone was pretty blown away by it. That and the idea of me doing a musical, theater of any kind... Was... Unexpected for folks. I wasn't exactly a model student. I did a few more shows in HS, went on to Nassau Community College where I got into Raft of the Medusa, a play that deals with an aids discussion group. That's where I met director Victor Abravaya, a brilliant, talented individual who pushed me to the limits and beyond on that show. It was a lot for someone out of HS, someone who had never really been pushed as an actor. It was an amazing experience. From there I did quite a number of shows (but still not so much school work) and went on to William Esper Studio in NYC to continue my studying. I graduated from there after 2 years, and stumbled out into the acting world. And kept stumbling. Still not on steady feet. Are we ever?
3. What are some of the major differences or adjustments one experiences with theater versus film?
Both present unique challenges. Theater, you rehearse for a period of time, eventually running through the show going into live performances. You have to deal with all the things live performances throw at you like botched lines, missed queue's, props not set (or missing), and the unpredictable audience. One night what you're doing is the funniest thing the world has ever seen. The next night... Silence. Sometimes there's an audience... Sometimes there's not. Sometimes that audience eats bags of chips in the front row, answers phone calls, and every now and then they'll get interactive without prompt. And when you do a long run of a production, you have to keep the material fresh to yourself. Otherwise it gets stale, moments stop meaning anything. If your character has lost a loved one in a scene, killing of an actual loved one in your head will likely have a great effect on you emotionally... For a while. But as with anything, the more you go to it, the less it means. Keeping things new and interesting to your characters is very challenging, and part of what I love so much about theater.
Movies are chopped up, scenes filmed out of order, you've got the entire crew standing there, cameras in your face, and sometimes the other fucking actors aren't even standing in for themselves. There's rarely any kind of extensive rehearsal, if there's rehearsal at all. That's why great performances in movies are all the more impressive. You know the actor did the work on their own, and trotted that out, right there and then, in whatever handful of takes they did. And you want that consistency with the character. You're not running through the show, doesn't start and must go on. Starts, few takes. They relight, they move, different angle, do some more. Everyone goes home, comes back.
4. Can you tell us some of the films you’ve starred in and characters you’ve played?
More recently I was the Man in the Mask in The Strangers Prey at Night, and the Devil in Haunt (although they're really only "characters" as far as... They were people, and they showed up.) I play a real sweetheart in a more recent release called A Nun's Curse, and I'll be popping up in Wrong Turn: The Foundation as Morgan.
5. What has been your most memorable project or experience as an actor?
Years ago I was called up by a cursed production of Guys & Dolls which was to open roughly a week from the time of the call. Their lead (Sky Masterson) was... Arrested I think? He was gone. And the understudy wasn't up to snuff. So they asked if I'd come fill in. So I said sure, I had JUST returned from filming some movie in upstate NY called Ghost Lake. I went into this lively and doomed production, started learning the choreography and the songs. I had a passing knowledge of the show, and Sky is a good part for me. That's my wheelhouse as far as singing, and dancing (minimal for the latter). The 2nd night/show the actress playing Sarah lost her voice. All of a sudden. And her understudy wasn't ready. They were about to cancel the show when the director and choreographer saw someone they knew that had come to purchase tickets. They were familiar with her as an actor, and had the crazy idea to ask her if she'd be willing to, instead of watch the show... Be in it. As the lead. With the script in hand. She said yes. They asked me, I said I was fine with it. So away we went, this actress, script in hand, with only a passing knowledge of the show to go on otherwise, doing this live performance in front of a large crowd. I swung her through the choreography, sometimes she dropped the script, and just went with it. She was wonderful, and it's by far my favorite moment to date. It was such a great experience, I was ready for anything, and went with every moment. There were quite a few shows cancelled due to snowstorms right after that, but when we returned, she returned in the lead and we finished it out. Then a few years later, we got married.
6. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
This "business" is mostly, I think, a miserable affair. You can keep your head up, smile when you walk into auditions, smile when you're leaving, and halfheartedly laugh when someone asks you how it's going, but it's a knock-down, drag out fight every step of the way. 99% of your actor hopefuls are loaded up with the same challenges when they're pushed out the door. There's a million other actors out there, everyone is hungry, nobody wants to work the job they're currently working, but you need money for head-shots, money to travel, a flexible job so you can go on these auditions, money to submit through the casting websites. It's pretty easy to turn that decent human being into one that would sell their grandmother down the river at a chance to move in the right direction. And that's the game, and many are willing to play it. I've not been so good at playing the game, so many of the challenges I've faced aside from the ones that are built in, are ones I threw in front of myself. Like the choice to move to Maine, not California. Not Georgia. Really in the complete wrong direction geographically. But... We wanted to be somewhere we wanted to do and do the best we could with it. And being in Maine is a tremendous challenge if you want to do this stuff. But we're chipping away, and I think we're on the cusp of turning some things around there in a big way.